For the 20th daily installment of Big Wheel Blading’s Inline Skating and Life During COVID-19 series we talk to Jan Eric Welch. Jan is a 44-year-old inline skater and founder of bigwheelblading.com who lives in Lyndonville, Vermont. He has been involved in the inline skating industry since it’s early years, producing Scum Magazine from 1994-1999, which was both an online magazine and a print zine, winning best website at the 1999 SXSW Interactive Media Festival in Austin, Texas. Jan worked for Daily Bread Magazine in San Diego, California from 1999-2001, ran Rat Tail Distribution and 4×4 Urethane with Jon Elliott and Brian Shima, founded Vicious Bearings with Jon Elliott and Chris Peel and released nearly a dozens aggressive inline skating videos during his videography career. He currently hosts the Annual New England Blade & Camp in Vermont and New Hampshire every summer with Myles Cotter-Sparrow.
What is the current situation with COVID-19 in Vermont?
The governor of Vermont has issued a stay-at-home order and closed all non-essential businesses until at least May 15th. You are only allowed to leave your home to buy groceries, essentials items or to go exercise, staying within 10 miles of your home at all times. I live in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, which is a rural area that borders Québec, Canada and the Great North Woods of New Hampshire. My town only has 6,000 people, but has two skateparks, three ski areas and one of the largest mountain bike trail systems in the United States, The Kingdom Trails. The ski areas and mountain bike trail system are closed, however the skate parks are still accessible.
Are you still skating? If so what precautions are you taking to stay safe?
Yes, I have skated a handful of times since the stay-at-home order was given. My COVID-19 skate sessions are actually my first out door skate sessions of 2020. Until recently there has been snow on the ground, so the only time I skated was in February, at Rye Airfield Skatepark in New Hampshire for the Noreaster Competition.
The Lyndon Town School has a large flat parking lot, with smooth asphalt, that loops the school building. If I want to get creative, there are some curbs and bumps for me to play around on. I’ve also been going to the St. Johnsbury/Lyndon Industrial Park to skate a 1.25 mile loop. There is no on there since the stay-at-home order was given, so it’s a nice and isolated.
Skating these places, with no one else around, makes me feel fairly safe from the virus. While skating I wear a helmet and clean my hands afterwards with sanitary wipes. The risk of getting injured and going to the hospital is not worth it, so being responsible and blading safe is a priority. The most important thing for me, is not to get sick and pass it on to my parents. I haven’t skated at either skatepark in town, because too many people are skating and not practicing social distancing.
What would make you stop skating entirely?
If we were no longer allowed to leave the house, or had to stay within a 1km of our home, like in some European countries, then I would stop skating. There are only dirt roads within 1km of me and I don’t have a paved driveway.
Are you doing any cross training?
I’ve been going on hikes with my girlfriend at the Lyndon Outing Club on the weekends. During the week I’ve started doing exercises and Yoga after dinner.
What other activities are you doing to occupy your time?
I have been spending most of my daytime hours cutting down trees and clearing out the woods on my parents property. I was suppose to work on this project last year, but it was interrupted when I broke my back skating in Burlington. I managed to get in two months of work before the snow fell, but I still had much more to get done. I’ve cut down at least 100 tress in the past two weeks, most of which were dead or growing in unflattering directions. I’m thinning out the trees and pruning them, so the woods look more like a park setting. At the same time I am carving out trails for hiking in the summer and separate trails for cross country skiing in the winter.
The rest of the day I spend working on articles for bigwheelblading.com and figuring out ways I can make money to pay my car payment and other bills. It has definitely given me more time to get on a roll with posting content. I plan on getting the YouTube channel running with Vlog posts and doing live chats on Instagram with skaters from around the world. The first live chat was done yesterday with Myles Cotter-Sparrow.
My girlfriend has been staying with me the past three weeks and we have been doing an insane amount of cooking. She is in school for her PHD in Psychology and has classes via Zoom on Mondays and Tuesday and then is working remotely Wednesday-Friday. My work in the trees and on the website align perfectly with her school and work hours so in the evening we are able to relax and watch a movie.
How has COVID-19 affected your normal everyday life?
COVID-19 has affected my life drastically. The thing that hit me the hardest was when they shut down the ski resorts in Vermont. I had a season pass to both Burke Mountain and Jay Peak and was planning on getting in 80 days on the mountain this year. I made in to day 51 when they closed, with still two months of skiing that could have been done. I was up at Burke this past week and they still have full coverage. Dozens of people were there skinning up and skiing down. I think they are being selfish, if they were to get hurt and needed to be rescued, they’d be putting a strain on the health care system.
Financially I lost almost everything. I sell on Ebay and was spending 3-4 days a week driving to thrift stores across Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. All the thrift stores have been shut down for several weeks now leaving me with no place to source items. I’ve lost that income completely, which is what paid all my bills. To make things worse I received an email from one of our two sponsors that because of COVID-19 they would pull their monthly advertising from bigwheelblading.com. It wasn’t much money, but the little money I was generating on this site was all I had left.
The domain registration and web hosting for bigwheelblading.com are expiring on 04/20/20 and need to be renewed. The timing of losing my income couldn’t be any worse. I’ve started a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to renew the domain and hosting for the next three years so we can keep this site running. If you are a fan of what I am doing and believe in my vision of bringing all disciplines of skating together through this site, then please visit the gofundme and donate if you can.
What are your major concerns right now and looking into the future?
My main concern is the health of my parents. I have been making sure they don’t leave their house, grocery shopping for them and running their errands. I’m also concerned about the economy of this region. It has been depressed for a long time and is finally started to see a resurgence. Thanks in part to the popularity of Kingdom Trails and Burke Mountain, new restaurants, stores, breweries and businesses were opening. I fear many of these businesses will not survive the mandatory closures they are having to endure. This is a problem that will affect the entire world.
How is the skate scene in Vermont responding?
The community in Vermont is very small and extremely isolated. If I want to skate with any of my friends I have to drive almost two hours for a session. From what I can tell, no one is skating parks, but some people are going out and skating on isolated rural roads.
Do you have anything you’d like to add?
I know many of my friends are taking this seriously, staying at home and maintaining social distancing. I still see people online who think this is a hoax and trying to justify it with memes. This is real, I’ve had many friends infected, some of whom have suffered permanent damage. Luckily none of my friends have passed away, but several friends of mine have lost family members, co-workers and friends to COVID-19. I have many friends who work in hospitals who are losing their minds right now and it breaks my heart to see what they are going through. I have the utmost respect for and want to give a big thanks to everyone out their working on the front lines during this pandemic. To those who are being forced to work because you are deemed essential workers you are in my thoughts and thank you for keeping this country running.
Header photo by Eric Estrada
- Follow Jan Eric Welch on Instagram.
- Jan documented his ski season on Stoked! Jan’s Ski Blog, if you want to check it out!
- Check out his YouTube and Vimeo pages to watch some of his old videos.
- To donate to the Big Wheeel Blading GoFundMe campaign go here.
- Go to Inline Skating and Life During COVID-19 to read more interviews from skaters from around the world.
- Go to Essential Workers – Inline Skaters on the Front Lines of COVID-19 to read about inline skaters from around the world who are considered Essential Workers.
- For our full COVID-19 coverage go here.
- Contact Big Wheel Blading for and questions, suggestions or ideas.
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